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Last Update : Friday, March 24, 2017

JapanGov Weekly

Cabinet Secretariat [Sunday, March 19, 2017]

Address by H.E. Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan CeBIT Welcome Night

Hannover, Germany

[Provisional translation]

Good evening, everyone.

It all dates back to May last year. Chancellor Angela Merkel and I were meeting at Schloss Meseberg. At one point she asked me, "Why don't you make Japan a partner country at the CeBIT next year? And you must also come."

Angela, I really must thank you for that invitation. I am indeed here. Japan is indeed a partner country. And also, Japanese companies are here, in a massive number, which is 118, a jump of more than tenfold from the previous year.

Ladies and gentlemen, today, soon after this event, a landmark document will be unveiled. Signing it will be Minister for Economics and Energy Ms. Brigitte Zypries.

And on the Japanese side, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Mr. Hiroshige Seko, who is with us here today in this hall, and although she's not here, Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Ms. Sanae Takaichi.

We choose to call it “the Hannover Declaration.”


The specifics will all come to light quite soon, so I would instead like to share with you my thoughts on the foundation that the “Declaration” is based on.

Firstly, we are now in need of a new definition for machines.

Machines equipped with AI, or machines that are essentially robots no longer perform only narrow, singular functions.

Think of concerns we face as humans, like health. Think also of challenges at a global scale, like the supply of energy. The machines of tomorrow will be tasked with the mission of solving that multitude of challenges.

The manufacturing industry will also change. It will become a “solution” industry.

None of those problems are solvable by a single machine, by a single company, even if it is technologically advanced, or even by single countries alone.
That leads us to the second point: we must cherish connectedness, above all else.

How can we connect machines with each other? A system to another system, and to a system of systems... how can they be made to relate to each other?
What of the interplay between machines and humans for an extended lifetime? And indeed of the interface between and among groups of people, like countries and companies?

What kinds of connectedness will we build among each of these? We are in an age in which governments, businesses, and academe will rack their brains in competition with each other over how that connectedness should be designed.

This is an age in which cooperation and collaboration will create added value and stimulate growth.

Third, and the final point I wish to emphasize about the declaration, is the importance of education and of technology standards.

If I may ask you here, Angela, when you were little, did you ever build a crystal radio receiver?

The circuit diagram of the radio that Chancellor Merkel saw in Germany and the one I saw in Japan were undoubtedly exactly the same. Circuit diagrams were a magnificent common language.

In an age in which we must solve complex problems by regarding them as systems -- an age in which all things and all people are interconnected -- we will need new systems of modelling language and common technology standards.

I would like for Japan and Germany to contemplate these together. Together, let us develop common curricula and common standards.

The countries best able to do this are none other than Germany and Japan.

Why? Because Germans and Japanese alike take pride in manufacturing and we derive enormous pleasure from making things. I imagine the audience here today will also agree strongly with this. Am I right?


Ladies and gentlemen, there are only three things that are important for the future of Germany, Europe, and Japan.

Number one is innovation. Number two: innovation. And number three: innovation.

Recall if you will that it was Germany and Japan that were the first instances in the history of humankind to prove that it is possible to achieve remarkable growth despite limited land mass and meager natural resources.

We grew by turning disadvantages to our own favor, and it was innovation that made it possible.

It will be innovation too that will unquestionably resolve the issues we face in the future. The times that challenges loom large are the times that innovation will bear the sweetest fruit. There is no doubt in my mind about that.

For that reason, Japan has no fear of AI. “Machines will snatch away jobs” -- such worries are not known to Japan.

Japan aims to be the very first to prove that growth is possible through innovation even when a population declines.


Japan and Germany share some factors in common.

In both Germany and Japan, it is in small companies where many of those taking on innovation can be found. That is a common factor deserving special mention.

Accordingly, every time Chancellor Merkel and I meet, we discuss how to foster exchanges among German and Japanese mid-sized and small- and medium-sized companies.

In February, representatives of cutting-edge German SMEs visited Japan. People watched in amazement as a robot known as “Franka” moved deftly to build a new Franka -- that is, to replicate itself.

I am fully confident that true gems among the Japanese mid-sized companies and SMEs attending this year’s CeBIT will also broaden that sphere of astonishment in just the same way.


Ladies and gentlemen, Germany and Japan share one more factor in common.

We have both come this far precisely because we reaped the benefits of trade and investment.

It is said that IoT, the Internet of Things, will connect everything. What that is describing, in other words, is the explosive force to expand by multiples, hidden within the network.

The same can be said of national economies. To emphasize it once more, it is through connectedness that economies will grow.

Japan, having grown through reaping in abundance the benefits of free trade and investment, wants to be the champion upholding open systems, alongside Germany. That is my fervent wish.

Of course, to do so, it will be necessary to have rules that are fair and can stand up to democratic appraisal. We must not create conditions by which wealth becomes concentrated among only some people, or through which those who pay scant attentions to the law come out ahead.

That is precisely why Japan and Germany, and moreover Japan and Europe, as those who value freedom and human rights and respect democratic rules, must act in cooperation.

And that is why we must conclude an Economic Partnership Agreement between Japan and the EU at an early time, in order to express this prominently. I appeal for that wholeheartedly.

Chancellor Merkel, shall we not move forward together, in order to maintain and reinforce the free, open, and rules-based system that has propelled us to where we are today?


A major turning point in the history of humankind has arrived.

In prehistoric days, we ventured into the forest to hunt. If that is the first chapter of human history, then the second is when we succeeded in securing a stable number of food calories in the form of rice and wheat.

The curtain rose on chapter three as waves of industrialization arrived in what we call modern times; chapter four saw telecommunications and computers fuse, opening a new door.

We are now witnessing the opening of the fifth chapter, when we are able to find solutions to problems we had been unable to solve. This age in which all things are connected and all technologies fuse is the advent of “Society 5.0”.

Let us, Germany and Japan, together write the story of Society 5.0 from the very first page.

Chancellor Merkel, we will maintain a world that is open and respects rules, and is free and fair. And we will make it resilient.

Given that, shall we not motivate young people to hasten over to the wide plains of innovation, to their hearts’ content?

The fifth chapter of humankind will surely be a world with a bright and rosy future ahead. Let us walk on, forward and then further still, believing in our strengths.

Danke! Jetzt, du bist dran, Angela.

Cabinet Secretariat [Sunday, March 19, 2017]

Visit to Germany: First Day

On March 19 (local time), Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Hannover in the Federal Republic of Germany.

The Prime Minister attended the 2017 CeBIT Welcome Night.

Cabinet Secretariat [Monday, March 20, 2017]

Visit to Germany: Second Day

On March 20 (local time), Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is currently visiting Hannover in the Federal Republic of Germany, visited the exhibition venue of CeBIT 2017, an international trade fair for information and communications technologies, with H.E. Dr. Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany.

In his address before the visit, the Prime Minister said,

“Good morning, everyone. My name is Shinzo Abe. CeBIT 2017 has begun. In order to keep my promise to Angela, last night I alighted here in Hannover. I look forward to observing numerous examples of advanced technology today.

Some 118 Japanese companies have gathered at CeBIT 2017. It is the largest number of participating companies from a partner country. This is a reflection of Japan’s ardent wish to achieve growth together with Germany.

Advances have been made in technologies such as IoT, big data, and artificial intelligence, bringing in a new wave of digitalization. It is important to link these new technologies with the industrial technologies cultivated from previously to resolve energy and environmental issues, as well as social issues such as the declining birthrate and aging population. Japan and Germany both have advanced industrial technologies and share various other things in common. Japan and Germany will cooperate to lead the world resolutely.

I am truly honored to be able to take this commemorative first step toward this goal with Angela today. Thank you very much.”

Following this, after a leaders’ lunch meeting with Federal Chancellor Merkel, the Prime Minister held a joint press conference.

Cabinet Secretariat [Friday, March 17, 2017]

Council for the Realization of Work Style Reform

[Provisional translation]

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held the ninth meeting of the Council for the Realization of Work Style Reform, at the Prime Minister’s Office.

At the meeting, there was a discussion on the Work Style Reform Action Plan.

Based on the discussion, the Prime Minister said,

“Today, we had a discussion on the compilation of the Work Style Reform Action Plan based on the draft plan.

The proposal submitted today through the Government, labor, and management comes in the wake of the historic labor-management agreement made on March 13 between Keidanren and the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (RENGO) on the regulation of the maximum hours of overtime work. I asked Chairman Sakakibara to adjust this agreement further, and received his understanding that the maximum hours of overtime work per month should be set to under 100 hours per month. I want to compile the Action Plan based on this policy.

The maximum hours of overtime work permitted is in principle regulated at 45 hours per month and 360 hours per year. Labor and management came to an agreement through efforts aimed at avoiding work contracts with the maximum limits of overtime work. In order to support this, the Government will amend the Labor Standards Law, set out guidelines, and create a system to offer advice and guidance even in cases where 100 hours of overtime work has not been reached.

In terms of the remaining crucial issues, there is the issue of treatment regarding automobile driving work and construction work, which are exempt from Ministerial Ordinances on long-standing regulations related to overtime work. I have received a report on the state of coordination related to this today from Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ishii.

In order to secure industry workers, I want to break down long-established customs, and while setting grace periods, work toward the application of overtime work regulations in line with the actual state of the way people work.

I would like to ask for the continued coordination work of Minister Ishii and also want to receive the full support of relevant ministers and the manufacturing sector, given the need for complete governmental back-up for this work, including cooperation with those in the shipping sector and construction industry.

We heard valuable opinions today from Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Takaichi and other Council members. I would like your continued efforts to reflect those opinions into the Action Plan to the full extent possible.”